Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

Here's how the numbers show the brilliance of Mike Shanahan's career

Andrew Mason Avatar
July 7, 2020

Numbers do not tell the entire story of Mike Shanahan’s 14 seasons as Broncos head coach. But they stand as evidence of why he stands alone as the finest head coach in the Broncos’ 60-season history.

146: Total wins amassed by the Broncos under Shanahan, the most in franchise history.

83: Home wins by the Broncos in Shanahan’s 14 years on the job, the most by any team in that period of time.

46: Wins by the Broncos in the 1996-98 seasons. The New England Patriots matched this from 2016-18, also winning two Super Bowls during that span. (Bill Belichick’s Patriots came up one victory short of matching the Broncos’ 46 wins from 2003-05; they fell short because Shanahan’s Broncos defeated New England 27-13 in the 2005 AFC divisional playoff. That snapped the Patriots’ 10-game postseason winning streak.)

21: Wins over the Raiders during Shanahan’s years as Broncos head coach. All of those took on a special significance for Shanahan given the acrimony that followed his dismissal by Al Davis and the then-Los Angeles Raiders three games into the 1989 season. The Broncos won 11 of their first 12 games against the Raiders during Shanahan’s tenure, reversing a trend dating back to 1989 in which the Broncos had lost 11 of 12 to the Raiders.

The 21 wins against the Raiders by Shanahan-led teams were also one more than the Broncos had in the first 35 years of the series. From 1960-94, Denver went 20-49-2 against the Raiders, including a 1-1 split of postseason games.

18: The number of 1,000-yard receiving seasons amassed by players during Shanahan’s tenure, giving the Broncos more 1,000-yard receiving seasons than any other team in the league in that span. Denver had at least one pass catcher hit four digits in all but one of Shanahan’s seasons (2003). In four consecutive seasons (1997-2000), the Broncos had two 1,000-yard pass catchers: Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe (1997) and the Smith-Ed McCaffrey pair (1998-2000).

Seven different receiving targets broke 1,000 yards under Shanahan: Smith (1997-2002, 2004-05), McCaffrey (1998-2000), Sharpe (1996-97), Brandon Marshall (2007-08), Anthony Miller (1995), Ashley Lelie (2004) and Javon Walker (2006). Only the Lions had as many different 1,000-yard pass catchers from 1995-98.

11: The number of 1,000-yard rushing seasons compiled by Broncos running backs during Shanahan’s 14 seasons as head coach, which is the most in the NFL in that span. This distinction is shared with the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, New York Jets and the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. This figure also represents nearly half of the 1,000-yard campaigns amassed by Broncos running backs in team history; in the other 46 years of Broncos football, the club had 12 1,000-yard runners. The Broncos also had just seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the 34 years prior to Shanahan’s 1995 return as head coach; they surpassed that figure over the first nine seasons of his tenure.

This is also the number of Ring of Famers who played under Shanahan at some point: John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith, Tom Nalen, Jason Elam, Simon Fletcher, John Lynch and Champ Bailey. It ought to be a bit higher, as Ed McCaffrey, Al Wilson and Trevor Pryce in particular possess worthy resumes.

9: Years in which the Broncos ranked in the NFL’s top five in total offense under Shanahan. This represents half of the times in which the Broncos have had a top-five offense, even though Shanahan’s years comprise 23 percent of Broncos history.

Since Shanahan’s departure, Denver has just three seasons in which the team had a top-5 total offense (2012-14). His offense finished outside of the league’s top 10 just four times in his 14 seasons as head coach; it’s been there eight times in the 11 seasons since his dismissal, including three in the bottom 10.

8: Playoff wins by the Broncos under Shanahan, the most by the Broncos under any head coach, surpassing the tally of Dan Reeves (7), John Fox and Gary Kubiak (3 apiece) and Red Miller (2).

7: Playoff appearances made by the Broncos in 14 years under Shanahan. That is the most under any coach in Broncos history, surpassing the six made during Reeves’ 12-season stint (1981-92).

6: The number of different running backs to break 1,000 yards under Shanahan. Terrell Davis (1995-98), Olandis Gary (1999), Mike Anderson (2000, 2005), Clinton Portis (2002-03), Reuben Droughns (2004) and Tatum Bell (2006) all hit four figures under Shanahan’s watch.

4: Number of quarterbacks with which Shanahan built an offense that ranked in the league’s top five in total yardage: John Elway (1995-98), Brian Griese (2000, 2002), Jake Plummer (2004-05) and Jay Cutler (2008).

Four is also the number of coaches to win at least 150 games, two Super Bowls and to win division titles with at least two different franchises. Shanahan is one of those four, along with Don Shula, Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin. Shula and Parcells are in the Hall of Fame.

2: World championships won by the Broncos, coming in back-to-back seasons (1997-98).

1: Shanahan’s ranking among Broncos head coaches in total wins and seasons coached.

It’s a Ring of Fame resume — and given the standard set by recent inductions of coaches such as Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, it should be a Pro Football Hall of Fame resume, too.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?